Dallas Cowboys: Why this latest list of linebacker rankings is a great thing

Jaylon Smith #54 and Sean Lee #50 of the Dallas Cowboys Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Jaylon Smith #54 and Sean Lee #50 of the Dallas Cowboys Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys linebackers were among the best two seasons ago, if not the best. Here’s why one preseason positional rankings might mean everything.

The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2020 season with a heap of expectation. Even though they usually come into each and every season with more than their fair share of expectations, this one has a ton of extra stuff attached to it.

Their starting signal-caller in Dak Prescott is playing on the NFL’s franchise tag, so he is essentially playing for a deal. Ezekiel Elliott has been criticized quite a bit recently, so there is that expectation that he has something to prove.

As a whole, you also look at the fact that the offense was elite last season by some standards, with only bigger and better things expected this season with another year together and new head coach Mike McCarthy’s offensive mind.

With the offense’s prowess last season at the top of mind, you also have to look at the expectations for the defense. With a disappointing year as a whole last season, they have something to prove and that most certainly goes for the linebacker group.

The key to the defense clicking on all cylinders, the linebackers for the Cowboys really took a step back as a unit last season. While all of them are really good players in their own rights when referring to the Cowboys three main backers, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee, they are only as strong individually as they are as a unit when in the context of effectiveness, possibly.

You say this because Smith wasn’t as good without Vander Esch last season, which subsequently led to Sean Lee looking below average at times. Either way, last season is behind us and this new season brings new hope. According to one set of linebacker rankings from a very trusty source though, you can likely do more than just hope.

The Dallas Cowboys defense struggled last year, behind a struggling linebacker unit. These rankings may provide a glimmer of hope or even a complete beacon of light.

According to the folks over at Pro Football Focus, the Dallas Cowboys’ linebackers are the second-highest ranked unit in the NFL. Here is some of what they had to say of the Cowboys group.

"“In 2018, the Cowboys had the second-highest graded linebacking corps in the league (80.2), and they dropped to 11th with a 66.2 grade last season. They enter 2020 with one of the best units in the league as the corps remains intact … Expect Vander Esch to return closer to his 2018 form, as he missed 14.5% of his tackles last season compared to just 8.9% in 2018.”"

This is a great thing for a few reasons. The first is that you trust PFF, as they have been a good source of somewhat credible and accurate information for quite a few years now.

The reason that you trust them so much here is that it jives well with good logic and what your eyes should tell you. With them playing so well in the season prior, it’s hard to imagine that it was a fluke. That also should lead you to believe that last season was the anomaly, although across a small sample size but especially when you consider the adverse situation Vander Esch’s injury left the team and unit in.

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Look, the games still have to be played and the plays still have to be made, but it’s encouraging to have a thought such as this reinforced. That thought is and was that last season isn’t what we should expect the majority of the time from these Cowboys linebackers and that they are much better than that. That is why this latest list of linebacker rankings is a great thing for Dallas and their fans.